November 14, 1996 – GM releases its EV1, first electric car

GM EV1
GM EV1. By Rick Rowen – CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in 1996 General Motors released its first electric car, the EV1. Manufactured in Lansing, Michigan, the EV1 had a range of 70-90 miles before requiring a recharge. More than 1,100 EV1s were produced between 1996 and 1999, making it the first mass produced electric car from a major automaker in nearly 90 years. It was only available via a lease program based on an MSRP of $33,995.

The genesis of the EV1 can be traced back to the unveiling of a prototype in 1990, which garnered positive attention and laid the groundwork for the subsequent production decision. However, despite initial optimism, the EV1’s journey was relatively short-lived, as General Motors ceased production in 1999, citing the program’s lack of profitability amid a shifting automotive landscape.

Post-production, the fate of the EV1 took a controversial turn. While a handful found a place in museums, a significant portion of the electric vehicles met a less fortunate end. In 2003, General Motors implemented a widely criticized decision to crush a majority of the remaining EV1s, sparking debates on the implications of such a move.

Crushed EV1 cars
By Plug In America – CC BY-SA 2.0

The rise and fall of the GM EV1 stand as a captivating chapter in the ever-evolving narrative of electric mobility. Its brief but impactful existence serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by pioneers in uncharted territories and the complex interplay between innovation, market forces, and corporate decisions in the automotive industry.

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